US President Donald Trump signs executive orders extending coronavirus economic relief, during a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 8, 2020.

Housing experts worry the president's executive order may give renters a false sense of security. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

On Aug. 8, President Donald Trump signed an executive order addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and needed assistance for renters and homeowners facing financial difficulties.

“I’m signing an executive order directing the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to make sure renters and homeowners can stay in their homes. So I’m protecting people from eviction,” Trump said at the signing.

However, the details of the order do not halt evictions, and housing experts are worried that renters will have a false sense of security about their current situation if they can’t afford rent right now.

“It’s really important for people to hear that the executive order does not protect people from evictions, and if people live in a place where there’s not a state or local ban on evictions in place, they are at risk of eviction if they’re not able to pay their rent,” says Peggy Bailey, vice president for housing policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

[Read: How Will a Recession Affect the Housing Market?]

Here are several common questions and answers about the executive order, and advice about what tenants should be doing now to avoid eviction:

Trump’s executive order discusses a number of topics related to financial concerns of millions of Americans during the pandemic, from unemployment benefits to student loans. Protections for homeowners and renters concerned about being forced out of their homes for inability to make monthly payments are also a major topic.

Here’s how the executive order addresses housing concerns:

  • It acknowledges that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, passed on March 27, established a moratorium on evictions for certain renters, which ended July 24. As a result, many renters are at risk of being forced out of their homes. It notes that evictions disproportionately affect minorities.
  • The order instructs the secretaries of HHS and CDC to consider whether there are reasonable measures that can be taken to halt evictions as an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
  • It instructs the secretary of the treasury and secretary of HUD to identify funds for temporary assistance for renters and homeowners who can’t make payments. It instructs the HUD secretary to encourage eviction prevention.
  • The order instructs the secretary of the treasury and the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency to review resources that may be used to prevent evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners facing difficulties due to the pandemic.

[Read: What You Need to Know About Tenant Rights in New Jersey]

The executive order does not halt evictions or foreclosures, and does not instruct aid to be provided to renters or homeowners.

“The president’s executive order does nothing – literally nothing – to stop or prevent evictions,” says Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “It’s worse than nothing because it confuses renters and provides false hope to renters … to think that they’re safe from evictions, when they’re not.”

Rather, the executive order instructs multiple departments, including HUD, the Department of the Treasury, HHS and CDC to explore options for halting evictions and look for available funds to provide renters and homeowners with financial assistance as the pandemic continues.

There is potential for such explorations to yield positive outcomes, but with no established timeline or requirement for results, it's unclear if renters will see relief in the near future. For those who have been struggling to make rent since the beginning of the pandemic, the situation just gets worse.

“People are still accruing rent-related debt, and the longer that they accumulate that debt, especially for low-income people, the harder it will be for them to pay it back once a moratorium ends,” Bailey says.

With many people experiencing unemployment, underemployment or the threat of layoffs since shutdowns began in March, the ability to make rent has declined for many tenants. The National Multifamily Housing Council reported 86.9% of professionally managed apartment households paid full or partial rent by Aug. 13, compared to 89% at the same point in June and 88.9% on Aug. 13, 2019.

Here are three key details discussed in the rental housing community as necessary aid:

  • Extended eviction moratoriums. Many governors and mayors throughout the U.S. are keeping a close eye on their constituents and extending widespread eviction and foreclosure moratoriums as needed. However, for areas where that’s not the case, a new moratorium at the federal level would help protect at-risk renters and homeowners.
  • Rental assistance. While another stimulus check could help people pay their bills for another month or two, funding dedicated to providing assistance over time will help ensure people can get back on their feet. “Given that we know low-income people are going to struggle for a while, and because of the recession that we’re in, we need longer-term assistance through rental assistance to help them pay their rent,” Bailey says. Rental assistance will also provide relief to landlords who have been struggling because they haven’t been able to receive rent. Bailey adds: “With (just) an eviction moratorium, there are no resources for landlords to be able to cover the mortgage of the property, pay their property taxes, do general building upkeep (and) all those things that the rent pays for.”
  • Resources for those experiencing homelessness. As a combined effort to help people who find themselves without a home due to loss of income as a result of the pandemic and for those experiencing homelessness prior to it, both Bailey and Yentel stress the importance of providing a safe place for people to stay. “Our collective health depends on our ability to stay home,” Yentel says.

[Read: Why You Should (and Shouldn't) Opt for a Month-to-Month Lease.]

If you’re struggling to pay rent right now, know that the Aug. 8 executive order does not protect you from eviction. If you’re worried about paying rent, here’s what you should do:

  • Talk to your landlord. Reach out and explain your position. “A lot of landlords are being really flexible during this time to the degree that they can, offering repayment plans and things like that, so people shouldn’t assume that their landlord won’t be flexible,” Bailey says.
  • Check your state and local government sites for eviction moratorium information. Keep up with local statutes that could keep you in your home or make you vulnerable to eviction.
  • Inquire with a local tenant rights organization. While many local nonprofits and tenant rights groups are inundated with requests for help, many are still able to provide monetary help, work with your landlord or even provide free legal services.
  • Contact a tenant attorney or legal aid. State and local legal aid offices can provide free legal representation for low-income families and individuals facing eviction.
  • Know that you can only be evicted by the courts. A notice to vacate by your landlord is not a legal eviction, and you shouldn’t take it as such. While many landlords are being understanding, others are trying to illegally evict tenants even when there’s a local moratorium in place. “Renters (need) to recognize that they have rights, and if a landlord tells them to leave they should not leave immediately, and talk to a legal aid attorney,” Yentel says.

The 10 States With the Most Affordable Housing

America’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Suburban wooden row houses and American flag in Brooklyn, New York City

(Getty Images)

There wasn’t a county in the U.S. where a minimum wage worker clocking in 40 hours a week could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment in 2019, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Lack of affordable housing has become a national issue, branching further than cities known for their high cost of living, such as New York and San Francisco.

In its 2019 Best States rankings, U.S. News determined which states offer the most affordable housing based on a Moody’s Analytics analysis, which compares a state’s median housing price to the median family income and mortgage interest rates. Each state has a housing score; 100 means that a family with a median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. A score above 100 means that a family has more than enough income to do so, assuming a 20 percent down payment.

Here are the top 10 states:

10. South Dakota

10. South Dakota

Falls Park in downtown Sioux Falls South Dakota. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

(Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Housing score: 212.4

South Dakota’s housing score far surpasses the national average of 165.9.

Learn more about South Dakota.

9. Michigan

9. Michigan

Downtown Detroit, Michigan at sunset.

(Getty Stock Images)

Housing score: 212.8

Michigan has the country’s fifth-lowest cost of living, according to the 2019 Best States rankings.

Learn more about Michigan.

8. West Virginia

8. West Virginia

Charleston, West Virginia

(Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)

Housing score: 214.5

The median gross rent in West Virginia was $711 per month from 2014 to 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about West Virginia.

7. Oklahoma

7. Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, OK, USA: Oklahoma City National Memorial - sky and reflecting pool over black granite, eastern gate and museum - photo by M.Torres

(Getty Images)

Housing score: 214.7

Oklahoma also ranks highly – No. 2 – for its cost of living in the 2019 Best States rankings.

Learn more about Oklahoma.

6. North Dakota

6. North Dakota

Driving through the rock formations of Badlands National Park, in Badlands, North Dakota.

(Getty Images)

Housing score: 216.3

North Dakota has one of the nation’s lowest poverty rates at 10.3%. The national average is 13.4%, with some states’ poverty rates reaching nearly 20%.

Learn more about North Dakota.

5. Nebraska

5. Nebraska

The sun sets over the State Capital Building in Lincoln Nebraska.

(Getty Stock Images)

Housing score: 219.7

Nebraska has one of the best GINI index scores in the 2019 Best States ranking, meaning that it is one of the states with the most income equality.

Learn more about Nebraska.

4. Pennsylvania

4. Pennsylvania

Runners take in the view from the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a foggy Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 morning, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Matt Rourke/AP)

Housing score: 221.1

The median family income in Pennsylvania averaged $59,445 from 2014 to 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Pennsylvania.

3. Indiana

3. Indiana

An isolated Indiana soybean field and farm

(Getty Images)

Housing score: 221.3

The median gross rent in Indiana was $807 per month from 2014 to 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Indiana.

2. Ohio

2. Ohio

Pedestrians navigate a labyrinth at Smale Riverfront Park in Cincinnati, Monday, June 22, 2015. The park is part of a five-phase revitalization of the Ohio riverfront as the downtown area undergoes a resurgence with investors and businesses moving into once vacant lots and buildings. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(John Minchillo/AP)

Housing score: 236.7

The median household income in Ohio averaged $54,533 from 2014 to 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Ohio.

1. Iowa

1. Iowa

A thick layer of fog rolls over the Mississippi River toward Dubuque, Iowa, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. (Dave Kettering/Telegraph Herald via AP)

(Dave Kettering/Telegraph Herald/AP)

Housing score: 246.8

Iowa ranked No. 1 for the 2019 Best States affordability ranking, which considers both housing affordability and cost of living.

Learn more about Iowa.

States With the Most Affordable Housing

States With the Most Affordable Housing

  • Iowa
  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nebraska
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • West Virginia
  • Michigan


Tags: real estate, housing, housing market, renting, coronavirus, pandemic, foreclosures


Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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